Russian student facing prison over social media posts says she had to flee - Social Media Explorer
Russian student facing prison over social media posts says she had to flee
Russian student facing prison over social media posts says she had to flee

Vilnius (Lituania)

Olesya Krivtsova thinks it’s because she was neither the first, nor the last, to criticize the war in Ukraine that she scared Russian authorities as much as she did.

SME was told that her posts on social media were not particularly problematic or outlandish. This is in line with the experiences of many students at universities across the country. She believes that this is the beginning of her problems: her peers threw her under the bus and made her a mockery.

Now in Lithuania and on Moscow’s list of most wanted criminals, the softly spoken, slight 20-year-old from Russia’s northwestern Arkhangelsk region makes for an unlikely villain. Russian authorities appeared to have chosen her from the beginning for severe punishment and particular zeal.

According to OVD-Info, a Russian human rights media group, most of the 447 Russians prosecuted for anti-war activity since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year have been charged with “disseminating false information.” But Krivtsova was placed under house arrest in January, and banned from using the internet on the far more serious charges of discrediting the Russian army and justifying terrorism. OVD Info reports that 49 individuals have been accused of discrediting Russia’s army, and thirty for supporting terrorism.

These charges stem from an Instagram story that she shared about the Crimean Bridge blast in October. It also criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and made a supposedly critical repost on the war in a chat with students on Russian social media VK.

If not for the brutality she endured, her voice could have been kept low, she stated.

“I think they really regretted it. No one expected that the case would grow so much that the resonance would be so huge,” Krivtsova said of the Russian authorities. SME first reported on her charges in January. Other international media outlets also covered the story.

Russia significantly increased its restrictions on freedom speech and opposition during the conflict in Ukraine. Days after Putin launched the full-scale invasion, his government adopted a law criminalizing the dissemination of what it called “deliberately false” information about the Russian armed forces, with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Putin has recently signed laws to expand those regulations to include volunteers as well as mercenaries in the fight against Ukraine.

Olesya Krivtsova seen in handcuffs.

Krivtsova can now speak loudly if she likes.

“The question is, am I happy to be here?” she asks from her cramped, dusty, Soviet-era apartment on the outskirts of the Lithuanian capital. “I don’t know, there are two sides to a coin. To some degree I feel I am lucky to be in Vilnius and no longer living where they wanted to put me in jail for the words I spoke.”

She said that February was the turning point for her, as she celebrated her 20th anniversary with her mom, her husband and her little sister. As she went to get coffee with her husband, she was also arrested. She said that the charges this time were fabricated and difficult to escape. Krivtsova claimed that after being falsely accused, she tried to book Russian bus tickets. Krivtsova explained that she realized she faced years in a prison colony, and was forced to flee.

“It was the FSB who forged the court evidence,” Krivtsova alleged, referring to Russia’s security service.

“My lawyer, my mom and I were poring over documents after what happened, gathering evidence to show it wasn’t me who did it, but nobody cared,” she said. “I realized they would all cover each other’s backs because Russia is a police state, and I think this is what made me leave, because I was facing my main trial, but my evidence was not being considered there, either.”

Olesya Krivtsova, pictured at a court hearing, was put under house arrest.

According to her, she took off at night and traveled for several days in car to reach a border that she never dreamed of crossing. Krivtsova said that life is hard, despite having gained freedom.

“I lost a lot and went through a lot,” she said, perched on one of the three rickety chairs that constitute the threadbare apartment furnishings. “Not least, my mother’s tears at the idea of my situation. I lost [left behind]My grandfather, father, and grandmother. This is a huge price for anyone.”

Krivtsova stated, with her typical earnest, but still quiet seriousness that she needs a vacuum to clean her house, on a practical note. And that’s just the start of it.

After leaving behind only a backpack, she is now in need of clothes and a phone to help her enroll at a university. For fear that her phone would be traced, she had to give up her older one.

Krivtsova took off the electronic bracelet around her ankle before crossing the border. Luckily for her, “its GPS, like so much other Russian hardware, didn’t function properly,” she said, with a mischievous smile.

Krivtsova claimed that she also gained many things as she crossed over the Russian border. The thought of her newly won freedom of expression made Krivtsova’s demeanour lighter.

“Of course, I’m already using my voice,” she said, sitting up slightly taller.

“I have already created another Instagram channel, in which I continue to publish posts. I think it’s now my daily job to discredit the Russian army because the Russian army is committing crimes on the territory of Ukraine.”

And she has no doubt that, back in Moscow, they’ll be listening. After all, that’s why she’s here, she said, “and that’s why the authorities are afraid, because words are the most terrible weapon now.”

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Adam is an owner at Nanohydr8. He really loves comedy and satire, and the written word in general.

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